The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif.–Stephen Curry backpedalled in pure joy. He skipped, hollered, and let the ball fly from everywhere with that feeling he gets when there’s no way it will miss–unwavering even with a defender’s hand in his face.
Curry dazzled in outduelling LeBron James as the two superstars traded big shots and celebratory moves, hitting an NBA Finals-record nine three-pointers and scoring 33 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 122-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night for 2-0 lead.
“Pretty special night,” Curry said. “And hopefully some more special things happen and we get two more wins.”
Kevin Durant found his steady stroke to score 26 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists while also handling a load of the defensive assignment against James.
Klay Thompson added 20 points playing on a tender left leg to put the defending champions two wins from a repeat title they’ve talked about since the season began back in the fall.
James followed up his 51-point performance in Game 1 with 29 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds in a far tamer Finals sequel–and a much more lopsided one–minus the utter craziness of a drama-packed opener three days prior.
Game 3 goes Wednesday night in Cleveland.
“We want to continue to be uncomfortable,” James said. “Just because we’re going home doesn’t mean we can relax.”
Kevin Love had 22 points and 10 boards for the cold-shooting Cavs, who now will try to gain some momentum back on home court.
Curry had the shot of the night with 7:54 to play, making an off-balance swish from several feet behind the three-point arc over Love as the shot clock wound down, then scooted backward in delight.
Curry fell into the first row of fans with a baseline “three” again over Love and four-point play at the 5:44 mark of the fourth.
“He’s a big shot-taker, big shot-maker,” Draymond Green said. “Tough shot-taker, tough shot-maker.”
The long shot over Love stood out to Curry’s “Splash Brother,” Thompson.
“About seven seconds on the clock he just kept going backward, I don’t know why, but he just threw it up and I didn’t think it had any chance of going in,” Thompson said.
“That was kind of like a dagger shot,” he added. “It just gave us all the momentum back.”
The two-time MVP made 11-of-26 shots and was 9-for-17 from deep.
James pointed with both hands after his “three” with 11:04 to go got his team within seven, before Curry answered from deep the next two trips down the floor.
“Those moments when you can come down and answer, and keep the momentum on our side, it’s big,” Curry said.
“Keep the crowd into it.”
Curry and James had a tense moment in the third, too.
James became irate at the officials for a no-call on Curry, who ran beneath the Cavs’ star and didn’t let him land with 3:54 left in the quarter as James caught Love’s long pass and went out of bounds.
Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue was hit with a technical, saying afterward he didn’t say much but was on the court.
JaVale McGee scored 12 points, making all six of his shots in his first career NBA Finals start as Kerr made a lineup switch that proved spot on.
The typically-efficient Durant connected on 10-of-14 shots after going just 8-for-22 (1-of-7 on “threes”) in the opener but still scoring 26 points.
Last year’s NBA Finals MVP made his initial five field goals last night, driving right at James on offence and doing all he could to fluster him on defence.
James hit a “three” over Durant’s outstretched arm midway through the third, then Tristan Thompson’s basket the next possession pulled the Cavs within 72-66.
But they couldn’t contain Curry and the rest of the Warriors for extended stretches.
The Warriors vowed to make it harder for James to generate good looks after he shot 19-for-32 in the series-opener, and James went 12:06 of game time between made baskets.